Authentic Lessons for 21st Century Learning

Woman Crush Wednesday: Gerty Cori

From Molecules to Organisms: Flow of Energy

Mariah Warren, Shayna Pond, Brittany Bowens | Published: April 5th, 2022 by K20 Center


In this lesson, students will explore the impact female scientists have on respiration. Aerobic respiration should be taught before doing this lesson. Students will discover the impact Gerty Cori has had on our understanding of respiration. Students will determine how the alternative pathway cells perform respiration under environmental conditions that lack oxygen. Students will evaluate the impact that the environment can have on the rate of respiration.

Essential Question(s)

How have female scientists shaped science today? What happens to our bodies when our cells do not receive an adequate amount of oxygen?



Students listen to the Gerty Cori pages read from the book, Women in Science.


Students explore what it feels like when muscles switch to anaerobic respiration.


Students participate in an interactive discussion on aerobic and anaerobic respiration.


Students complete a yeast lab connected to anaerobic respiration.


Students summarize, compare, contrast, and evaluate respiration effects due to hormones.


  • Set-up that allows videos and powerpoints to be played for everyone to view

  • Lesson Slides (attached)

  • Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World Book by Rachel Ignotofsky (attached, one per person)

  • How I Know It (attached, one per person)

  • Can You Handle It (attached, one per person)

  • Gerty Cori Interactive Questionnaire (attached, one per person)

  • Yeast Lab Instructions (attached, one per person/group)

  • R.E.R.U.N. (attached, one per person)

  • Gist (attached, one per person)

  • Balloons (four per group)

  • Bottle (one per group)

  • Yeast (one per group)

  • Flask or plastic/glass soda bottle (16 oz. or smaller) (four per group)

  • Funnel

  • Packets of yeast (four/9 teaspoons per group)

  • Bag of Sugar (6 teaspoons per group)

  • Warm water (4 cups per group)

  • 4 small balloons


15 Minute(s)

Use the attached Lesson Slides to follow along with the lesson. Begin with slide 3. Briefly read aloud the Essential Questions: How have female scientists shaped science today? What happens to our bodies when our cells do not receive an adequate amount of oxygen? Then, move to slide 4 and read the Lesson Objectives.

Move to slide 5. Invite students to read the Gerty Cori pages (attachment, pg. 46-47) from the book Women in Science: 50 Fearless Pioneers Who Changed the World by Rachel Ignotofsky. After reading, ask students to identify in what area of biology Gerty Cori did her research.

Introduce student to the How I Know It strategy. Invite students to write what they already know about the purpose and process of cellular respiration. Have students share out a few of their points. Next, inform students that they will get to explore the contributions further that Gerty Cori has given us in understanding alternative pathways for cellular respiration.


30 Minute(s)

Make copies and pass out the Can You Handle It? handout. Go to slide 6. Instruct students to line up against the wall for a competition. Instruct them to do a wall sit for as long as they can. Their back should be flat against the wall and their knees bent at a 90-degree angle. Students can stand up whenever they feel their muscles are tired. While they are doing this, ask them what their muscles feel like. Once all the students feel their muscles getting a little shaky, you can have them all sit. Write down what they experienced on Question Number 1 (not sharing responses yet).

Next, while students are in their seats, provide each student with a clothes pin and complete the steps in the Can You Handle It handout.

Have students answer the remaining analysis questions and discuss what they noticed.


30 Minute(s)

Move to slide 7. Pose the following questions to the students:

  • Describe moments where you have experienced this kind of pain/fatigue in your muscles.

  • What do you typically do to relieve that kind of pain/fatigue?

  • Why do you think this is happening?

Make copies and pass out the Gerty Cori Interactive handout. Move to slide 8. Inform students that we will revisit Gerty Cori who, with her husband, discovered the cause of this experience we may feel from our muscles. Pair students up and invite them to participate in the Gerty Cori Respiration Interactive. Have students answer the questions on their Gerty Cori Respiration Interactive handout.


30 Minute(s)

Gather the supplies for the lab. Move to slide 9. Make copies and pass out Yeast Lab Handouts. As students complete the lab, have them collect the data and answer the analysis questions. After completion of the lab, have students complete the R.E.R.U.N. strategy by writing up a lab using the R.E.R.U.N rubric. Be sure to go over the instructions and rubric to make sure students know what is expected of them.


15 Minute(s)

Move to slide 10. Using what they now know about aerobic and anaerobic respiration, invite students to complete the 30 Second Expert strategy. Hand out the Gist assignment and have students complete the T-Chart. Partner the students up and have them choose between the hormones: insulin and epinephrine/adrenaline. Students will complete on the left side of the T-chart their understanding of how the hormone affects respiration. Students will share and jot down their partner's comments on the right side of the T-Chart and then create a collective summary of hormone's effects on respiration. If time permits, have each pair share out their understandings.